The Great Wall of China is a long man-made wall built using tamped earth, brick, stone, wood, and other materials. The purpose of building the Great Wall of China was to keep out invaders and check military intrusions. It now acts as a tribute to the Chinese who were responsible for building this wall. The wall runs from Shanhaiguan in Hebei province (in the east) to Jiayuguan in Gansu province (in the west). It comprises of walls, armories, barracks, stables, shelters on the wall, watch towers, horse tracks, forts and passes.
To ensure proper communication among the army units, several signal towers were constructed on the hilltops or other higher positions along the wall. The wooden gates were used as a trap against those who stealthily tried to pass.
People from different occupations built the Great Wall during the three dynasties namely, Qin, Han and Ming. The most well-preserved version of the site dates back to the Ming dynasty.
UNESCO recognized it as a World Heritage Site in 1987, and people from all over the world visit the region to get to walk on the Great Wall of China. The site has been protected so that future generations are able to enjoy it with the same amazement as we do now. Despite the restoration of the Great Wall, which has made visiting more convenient, it is still dangerous to hike in the region due to the lack of safety facilities.
There are many watchtowers along the Great Wall, which are spaced a kilometer or several kilometers apart. The watchtowers are two stories tall. There are more than 10,000 watchtowers and beacon towers along the site.
The present condition of the wall demands serious consideration due to the following reasons:
- The graffiti on the wall marring the beauty of the wall.
- Some of the villagers are using stones from the wall for building their homes.
- Erosion from sandstorms is paving the way for the disappearance of the wall in Gansu.
- The Great Wall of China belongs not only to China, but also to the world as a great cultural heritage.
Due to political unrest, there was a dire need to build the Great Wall of China. Thus, China halted the expeditionary voyages of explorer Zheng He, so that the naval funds could be used in building the Great Wall of China.
Many people wonder about how many steps does the Great Wall of China have. The number of steps hasn’t been documented yet.
Activities at the Great Wall of China
On your tour to the Great Wall, you may choose to participate in any of the following activities:
- Mitianyu Cable Car Ride
- Hiking around the Great Wall
- Paragliding at Simtai
- The Great Wall Marathon
- The Nan Pass tour
- Toboggan ride at Mutianyu
You may also take a trip to the highest point along the Jinshanling section of the Wall via the cable car. The nearby tourist attractions include Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, and Old Summer Palace.
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- Signal fire was used to send messages from one tower to another. A single release of smoke signified 100 enemies, while two releases meant 500 enemies.
- More than one million people died while building the Great Wall and it is often referred to as being “the longest cemetery on Earth”.
- Nearly 42 million foreign tourists visited the Great Wall of China in 2004.
- Mao Zedong, the leader of the People’s Republic of China and the first Chairman of the Communist Party of China, wrote in his poem titled “Mount Liupan” – “If we fail to reach the Great Wall we are not men.”
- There is an abandoned part of the Great Wall near Mutianyu.
The Great Wall extends from Gansu province to Hebei province in China. There are a number of options for reaching the Great Wall of China from Beijing Airport to Great Wall of China:
- The most convenient way would be hiring a cab.
- Beijing has a fine network of bus transportation. Thus you may choose to travel in a bus.
- Another option is the Airport Express Train that runs to Dongzhimen. From here you may switch to Subway Line 2, then get off at Jishuitan Station, walk to Deshengmen to take Bus No. 919 to Badaling Great Wall.
Scenery of the Great Wall varies with season. The wall is surrounded by vegetation in the spring when trees turn green and everything looks fresh. This is also a good time to avoid large crowds and tourists that generally tend to visit in the summer and autumn. The best time to get the complete view of the wall would be winter when the wall and mountains are covered with snow.
- 6:30 am to 7:00 pm in the summer
- 7:00 am to 6 pm in the winter
The admission fee costs CNY 45 or CNY 40 depending on what time of the year it is. There are also separate charges for cable cars and pulleys.
- Is the Great Wall of China visible from space?
The Great Wall of China is visible from the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) under perfect conditions. The person who is looking at the wall from the space would need the visual acuity 8 times better than the normal to see the wall from the LEO. It is not at all visible from the Moon.
- Who built the Great Wall of China and in which year?
The construction of the Great Wall of China is not the work of just one person. It is the venture of many dynasties. The beginning of the construction of the wall can be traced back to the Western Zhou dynasty (period before 771 BC). The Zhou began building several parts of the wall. Similarly, other dynasties also made some walls as a defensive measure. Most of the walls have been found to have constructed during the period of the Ming Dynasty. These were later linked and additions were made by the Qin Dynasty (221 to 206 BC).
- How long is the Great Wall of China?
According to a survey conducted by the China’s State Administration of Cultural Heritage, the Great Wall of China measures 21,196.18 km (13,170.69 miles).
- What does the Great Wall of China separate?
It divides China and Russia.
- Which countries does the Great Wall border?
It borders Mongolia.
- What is the Great Wall of China called in French?
It is called Grande Muraille de Chine in French.
- What is the nickname of the Great Wall of China?
The nickname of the wall is “the long graveyard” because many people died while constructing the wall.
- Where does the Great Wall of China meet the sea?
The Great Wall of China meets the sea at the Shanhai Pass.
- When is the Great Wall of China marathon?
The next marathon is scheduled for May 17, 2014. The participants are required to climb 5,164 steps.
- How is the Great Wall of China changing over time?
Some of the parts of the wall have been repaired and some have crumbled down due to weathering caused by natural agents such as wind.
- How long would the Great Wall of China take to walk?
It takes a few months, depending upon your speed and capability, to take a walk of the Great Wall of China.
- Who is managing the Great Wall of China?
The tourist affairs organization of the Chinese Government is managing the wall.